Culture of Equality Is Powerful Multiplier

Workplace Innovation targets Culture of Equality as a Powerful Multiplier

Creating a workplace culture of equality is a powerful multiplier of innovation and growth, according to new research from Accenture. The company’s “Getting to Equal 2019” report found that in Canada, employees’ innovation mindset — their willingness and ability to innovate — is nearly six times higher in companies with a robust culture of equality, where everyone can advance and thrive, than in least-equal companies.

“In order to truly thrive, organizations need to be continuously innovating to offset disruptions within their respective industries” explains Claudia Thompson, Accenture’s managing director for health and public service and lead for inclusion and diversity in Canada. “The impact of having a diverse workforce and culture of equality is a powerful multiplier of innovation and growth within a company.”

According to the research, the vast majority of executives around the world agree that continuous innovation is essential with 95 per cent seeing innovation as vital to competitiveness and business viability. Supporting that, the research shows that a culture of equality is a powerful driver of an innovation mindset — more than other factors that differentiate organizations, such as industry, country or workforce demographics. In fact, among those surveyed, people across all genders, sexual identities, ages and ethnicities show a stronger innovation mindset in more equal workplace cultures.

Accenture’s new research is based on a survey of more than 18,000 professionals in 27 countries, including 700 in Canada as well as a survey of more than 150 C-suite executives in eight countries and a model that combines employee survey results with published labor force data. The 2019 report builds on Accenture’s 2018 research, which identified 40 workplace factors that contribute to a culture of equality, and grouped them into three actionable categories: Bold Leadership, Comprehensive Action and Empowering Environment.

This year’s research determined that an empowering environment is by far the most important of the three culture-of-equality categories in increasing an innovation mindset, which consists of six elements: purpose, autonomy, resources, inspiration, collaboration and experimentation. The more empowering the workplace environment, the higher the innovation mindset scores, according to the research. For instance, Canadian employees in robust cultures of equality are seven times more likely to say that nothing holds them back from innovating (39 per cent in most equal cultures vs. 5 per cent in least equal cultures).

However, organizations must close the important gap the research revealed between C-suite executives and employees. While 76 per cent of executives globally said they empower employees to innovate, only 37 per cent of employees agree. Specifically, executives appear to overestimate financial rewards — and underestimate purpose — as motivations for employees to innovate. In a more equal culture, the strongest factors underpinning an innovation mindset include providing relevant skills training, flexible working arrangements and respect for work life balance.

Diversity is a critical building block

While diversity factors alone (e.g., a diverse leadership team and a gender-balanced workforce) significantly impact innovation mindset, a culture of equality is the essential multiplier to help companies maximize innovation. The research found that the innovation mindset of employees globally is nearly eight times greater when diversity is combined with a culture of equality, compared to companies where these are least common.

High economic stakes

The study also found that an innovation mindset is stronger in fast-growing economies and in countries with high labor-productivity growth. The opportunity is enormous, Accenture reports. The company calculates that global gross domestic product would increase by up to US$8 trillion over 10 years if the innovation mindset in all countries were raised by 10 percent.

“Accelerating equality in the workplace has never been more critical for driving innovation,” according to Ellyn Shook, Accenture’s chief leadership & human resources officer. “If people feel a sense of belonging and are valued by their employers for their unique contributions, perspectives and circumstances, they are more likely to advance and feel empowered to innovate.”

As part of its “Getting to Equal 2019” research, Accenture conducted an online survey of more than 18,000 professionals in 27 countries during October 2018, as well as a phone survey with more than 150 C-level executives in eight countries in November and December 2018.

Accenture’s global report can be found at accenture.com/gettingtoequal